Read 1 Corinthians 11
1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
On Covering the Head in Worship
2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
Correcting an Abuse of the Lord’s Supper
17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
33 So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. 34 Anyone who is hungry should eat something at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.
And when I come I will give further directions.
As Paul begins this next section of his letter, he starts to really focus on instructions for the church (and its gatherings) over the next couple of chapters. A great deal of what he has addressed so far is applicable to individuals, but now he’s getting into the corporate implications. Here, he addresses two topics: head coverings and communion. At the core of both issues is a matter of the heart, and Paul wants to help ensure that the Corinthians are being thoughtful in everything they do, especially their corporate gatherings.
Obviously, the head covering issue was a cultural one that isn’t applicable to us now. We don’t have a running list of who covers their head and who doesn’t. So what was the big deal? Ultimately, it was an issue of modesty (in the same way that it would be inappropriate to wear revealing clothing to a worship service) and ultimately, submission to God. More than anything else, Paul wanted a posture of obedience from the Corinthian women. Both the men and women in Corinth were too caught up in culture, not obedience, and that was problematic. The second issue was how the Corinthians were taking part in the Lord’s Supper. They weren’t communing at all–with God or one another. It had become a ritual that people were doing whenever they wanted and with no examination of their own hearts. It had become the opposite of what communion is supposed to be–an opportunity to pause, reflect, repent, give thanks, and remember the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.
These two different sets of instructions from Paul teach us an important lesson. Obedience and faithfulness are our goals. Whenever we treat our faith (and specifically our gatherings with other believers) as a box to check or simply part of our routine, our heart can go to a dark place. All of a sudden, we start elevating our preferences and our desires over what’s actually important. The posture of our heart is important to God. When we align our hearts correctly, each and every thing we do becomes an act of worship and not an act of obligation. That’s where spiritual transformation really begins.
Why were the head coverings a matter of obedience? Why was this so important to Paul?
How is thoughtfulness connected to corporate worship? Why is it so important that we not go through the motions when we gather with other believers? Have you ever found yourself simply “checking the boxes”?
Paul stresses the importance of communion for the believers. Why is communion such a sacred act? What are the dangers of rushing into it or taking it lightly that we see in this passage
Did You Know?
Paul tells them at the end of verse 34 that he will give them further directions, so there were clearly other issues with how the church was gathering. Their lackadaisical approach to communion was so dangerous that he had to address it in this letter.